Section: Overall Objectives
It is well known that the interpretation of a discourse is a dynamic process. Take a sentence occurring in a discourse. On the one hand, it must be interpreted according to its context. On the other hand, its interpretation affects this context, and must therefore result in an updating of the current context. For this reason, discourse interpretation is traditionally considered to belong to pragmatics. The cut between pragmatics and semantics, however, is not that clear.
As we mentioned above, we intend to apply to some aspects of pragmatics (mainly, discourse dynamics) the same methodological tools Montague applied to semantics. The challenge here is to obtain a completely compositional theory of discourse interpretation, by respecting Montague's homomorphism requirement. We think that this is possible by using techniques coming from programming language theory, in particular, continuation semantics , , , , and the related theories of functional control operators , .
We have indeed successfully applied such techniques in order to model the way quantifiers in natural languages may dynamically extend their scope . We intend to tackle, in a similar way, other dynamic phenomena (typically, anaphora and referential expressions, presupposition, modal subordination...).
What characterize these different dynamic phenomena is that their interpretations need information to be retrieved from a current context. This raises the question of the modeling of the context itself. At a foundational level, we have to answer questions such as the following. What is the nature of the information to be stored in the context? What are the processes that allow implicit information to be inferred from the context? What are the primitives that allow a context to be updated? How does the structure of the discourse and the discourse relations affect the structure of the context? These questions also raise implementation issues. What are the appropriate datatypes? How can we keep the complexity of the inference algorithms sufficiently low?